How to Go All-In on a Dream with Hollywood Stuntwoman Sara Holden
Sara Holden has died dozens of times.
She’s been shot, stabbed, strangled, and bludgeoned. At least once, her demise came as a result of being injected with air. Whether she lives or dies doesn’t much matter to her – she gets paid the same for both. It’s all in a day’s work for the mother of two.
Sara lasted about 8 months in a corporate job before her wild spirit jumped that fence and bolted off to LA. Her initial goal was to become an actress, but it didn’t take her long to realize she would have to bring something more to Hollywood if she wanted to set herself apart from thousands of others just like her.
Looking back, she laughs as she remembers worrying that she was already “too old” to establish herself in the film industry. The twenty-two-year-old who left a solid career behind and road-tripped to LA with her boyfriend did so with a niggling of doubt that she’d already missed her window of opportunity. Were it not for the support of her boyfriend and the encouragement from the boss she’d just offered her resignation to, says Sara, she’s not sure she would have taken that leap. She hadn’t even told her parents the truth, opting to pretend she already had a job lined up so they wouldn’t worry.
She may have studied theatre in college, but Sara’s parting act didn’t fool anyone. “They know me,” she laughs. They’d raised Sara. They saw her wild spirit from a young age. From her Tomboy years to the flyer position on the cheerleading squad, to going up against girls who dwarfed her on the rugby field, they’d witnessed their little girl hurtling through the air and crashing on the ground more times than they could count. They witnessed her tenacity and grit as she was regularly pummeled in rugby games. “I got my butt kicked out there!” says Sara. But she never let her petite size equal petite expectations for a single day in her life.
So when she told her parents about a fictitious job out in LA, their response was more like “Oh geez, here we go!” as they hugged their daughter and told her to be careful.
The road trip was an adventure, but things got real for Sara when her boyfriend kissed her goodbye and set out to pursue his own dreams in Nashville. She’d saved enough money to set herself up, but she’d have to find a way to support herself while she embarked on her dream.
Bartending was her solution to that challenge. With her bombshell looks and blazing personality, Sara was a hit at one of LA’s most popular bars – conveniently located within shot-glass distance of one of Hollywood’s busiest sets.
When she wasn’t spreading cocktails and cheer at the bar, she was all-in on landing work in the entertainment industry. Sara instinctively understood a key principle to building success – building relationships is just as important as building a resume. Relationships she made as a bartender, with patrons and colleagues, gave her a community of personal and professional peers and mentors. But she didn’t stop there. She also worked unpaid internships at acting schools and casting agencies.
It can seem counterintuitive for someone working to support themselves to work for free, but Sara understands there is just as much if not more value to be found in the power of proximity as there is in a paycheck. “If I hadn’t done that,” she says, “I don’t know how I would have broken into the business.”
Sara Holden began landing day jobs as an extra.
Fifty dollars for an 18 hour day didn’t exactly seem worth it on paper, but again- she knew it was getting her one step closer to her goal while also connecting her with other actors.
“Networking is everything, surrounding yourself with successful people provides constant motivation and opportunities.”Networking is everything, surrounding yourself with successful people provides constant motivation and opportunities. ~ Sara HoldenClick To Tweet
She didn’t know anyone in the stunt world, outside of a conversation she’d had with a stunt director. Ever since that day she’d spent as an extra, the chance encounter with that stunt director had lit a spark in her mind. It was the first time she’d looked at professional stunt people in a different light.
Sara knew she was just one petite, blonde aspiring actress in an ocean packed with others. It would be extremely difficult for her to set herself apart in that sea. But with her background in theatre, advertising, and her own version of stunts she’d been performing her entire life, she recognized that window of opportunity waiting for her to climb through.
The world of professional stunts is a competitive one, just like acting. At the time Sara sniffed it out, it was less common for women to pursue it than it is now. But where she didn’t have that “thing” to set her apart in acting, she realized she did have it in stunts.
Plenty of scripts call for small parts that also require stunt work. The norm is to hire two people to accomplish this- an actor and a stunt double for that actor. Sara has the talent to do both, thereby differentiating herself while doubling her value.
All she had to do now was figure out how to break into the niche field.
One clear path was to train with a renowned stunt performer and trainer, Bob Yerkes. Bob’s esteemed career began when he joined a circus and grew into one of the most widely recognized stuntmen in the industry. He owns and operates an exclusive, invitation-only training program where he’s trained people like Brooke Shields and which George Lucas used to film scenes where Bob doubled as Boba Fett. The only challenge Sara saw was getting that invitation.
Where others may view that challenge as a dead-end, Sara’s “Bring -it-on” mindset was fully engaged.
She discovered a Stunt Association’s Christmas party which Bob would be attending in LA. This, she knew, was an opportunity she had to take. Crashing the party came with the risk of being kicked out or denied entry. Finding Bob Yerkes there and asking for an invitation came with the risk of being laughed at or told “No.” All those things can scare a person into inaction – but not Sara. “I’ve never been afraid of the word No,” she says. When it happens she just moves on to the next opportunity.
The night of the party arrived and the guests included one uninvited aspiring stuntwoman. “I just walked in there like I owned the place,” she remembers, and before long she was face to face with her opportunity.
“I hear you have a training facility in your backyard….What do I need to do to come?”
In that moment Sara’s boldness paid off. She got her invitation and spent the next two years training regularly with Bob.
Today, Sara Holden is living that dream she’d set out to live.
She married the boyfriend who believed in her. She’s a loving mom to their two children, and she’s on the rise in the world of professional stunts.
From commercials to TV shows to big-screen hits, Sara can be seen in high-speed car chases, various forms of grisly deaths, tumbling downstairs, leaping and flying through the air, and all sorts of other daring feats as she doubles for stars or performs both as an actress and a stuntwoman.
Her next great ambition is to flip a car – on purpose.
Yes, you read that correctly. Sara Holden is determined to earn a job in a production that requires her to flip a car. These car flips can be seen in virtually every action film as well as countless other genres of film and TV shows. Sara’s extensive experience as a high-performance driver and her insatiable thirst for pushing new thresholds, as well as her absolute attention to detail and unstoppable work ethic more than qualify her for this feat. Unfortunately, she has thus far not convinced the world of that.
These stunts are costly and time-consuming. In an industry with stuntmen who have already successfully completed this stunt, it makes sense for a stunt director to hire the seasoned person over the stuntwoman who does not have this particular stunt on her resume.
It could be years before Sara is given this chance – or never. She could sit back and wait, and tell herself to be at peace knowing she’d done all she can to achieve that goal. But that would be a lie she tells herself, because Sara knows there is something she has not yet tried, and set about doing just that.
Sara is building her own set, hiring her own producer and consultants and footing the bill to create her own opportunity. “I’m going to flip my own damn car,” she vows.
From the moment she made that decision, Sara has been all-in.
She’s been networking and researching and preparing in all ways possible, and she is quickly gaining support. She’s offering opportunities to sponsor her performance and will happily discuss these opportunities with interested parties.
She’s also become an unexpected inspiration to women. Her social media following is blowing up with women who see Sara as a role model, or live vicariously through her. She is openly requesting support and she is receiving it.
“If you don’t tell people what you want, how are you going to get it?”
That’s the mindset with which she is posting and connecting online and in-person with supporters, colleagues, and potential sponsors.
Sara isn’t sure how it will all play out but she is sure it will be spectacular.
Her version of the American Dream may look different from others, but it’s her dream and she is all-in on it. Sara may not have set out to be an inspiration to others, but her shining spirit, tenacious mindset, and overall love of life are having a ripple effect of inspiration anyway.
We can’t wait to see what she does next!
FOLLOW SARA HOLDEN ON INSTAGRAM…
The American Dream Playbook
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